This past week, I’ve been doing a lot of research on how to… research!
Well… not exactly. I’ve been researching a database called Amazon Mechanical Turk. My boss was interested in finding out whether or not this website would be a good tool for digitally conducting qualitative research so I spent a few days digging into the site, the reviews, and the blogs uploaded by Amazon MTurk workers themselves.
It was actually pretty interesting and it made me think about how advanced technology has grown to be. Amazon MTurk was originally a site where a large workforce of people could be available to do little jobs here and there and fill out surveys to make extra cash. From the employers’ point of view, the site was where they could find a large diverse group of workers that could get a vast amount of assignments done much faster than people could do physically and for a FAR lower price. As I researched, however, I realized that the site has morphed to become a place that researchers go to upload their surveys and have them filled out almost instantly by people from all over the world. The reviews for the site were mostly great and due to the site’s protection, it doesn’t seem very susceptible to bots (basically programmed money stealers!) and it was very easy for me to imagine a system like this growing and spreading throughout the scientific world, eventually eliminating the need for meeting people in person to interview them for qualitative research.
That being said, I actually don’t think that’ll ever happen. The site seems great but there are some things that technology just can’t do. For instance, it might be difficult for working class single black mothers in urban communities to find the time or have the resources to constantly be on the internet, filling out surveys for researchers who desperately need their opinion and perspective. Every platform attracts a certain type of person and the group of people that Amazon MTurk seems to attract is extremely similar to that of a college or university student body. As important as young educated voices are, I think it’s extremely important that we hear the voices that are repeatedly shut out, dismissed, or outright ignored. Needless to say, I’ve continued my research on black mothers. I read dozens of articles per day and I will never cease to be intrigued by their stories, honesty, and strength.